PUBLICATION 3 - 1967
CAPTURE OF JANE WHITTAKER AND POLLY
By Luther F. Addington
During the spring of 1777, a party of Indians, under the leadership of the half-breed Benge and a savage white man by the name of Hargus, crossed the range of hills north of Clinch at High Knob and made their way to Fort Blackmore at the confluence of Stony Creek and Clinch River in Scott County, Virginia. The white man, Hargus, had been living in the neighborhood but had joined the Indians to evade punishment for crime and became an inhumane persecutor of his race.
cautiously and stealthily approached the river down Stony Creek and
they might be discovered, crossed some distance below and came up in
rear of a high cliff south of, and opposite, the fort, concealing their
main body in the bushes at the base. In order to command a view of the
fort, they sent one of their number to the summit of the cliff to spy
the condition of the fort and to act as a decoy. He ascended in the
and climbed a tall cedar
Having promised to obey his instructions, he took several of them with him to a branch which he knew to be in full view of the Indians and told them to wash and dabble in the stream to divert the attention of the enemy for half an hour, while he went to look for the turkey, which still continued to gobble at short intervals.
an extra rifle from David Cox, crouched below the bank of the stream
in this manner followed its course to where it emptied into the river,
half a mile below at a place known as Shallow Shoals. Here he took to
timber, eluding the vigilance of the Indians by getting in their rear.
He then crept cautiously up the ridge, guided by the gobbling of the
in the top of the cedar on the cliff. Getting within about seventy-five
yards of the tree and waiting
Then commenced a race for life. Gray had played a desperate game, and nothing but his fleetness and his knowledge of savage craft could save him. He knew that the Indians in ambush would go to their companion on hearing the report of the rifle and that they were not more than two hundred yards away. He did his best running and dodging, but they were so close upon him that he would have been captured or killed had not the men of the fort rushed out to his rescue.
The Indians, finding that they had been discovered and that they were not strong enough to attack or besiege the fort, started in the direction of Castle's Woods. The people at the fort, knowing that the settlement at Castle's Woods was not aware that the Indians were in the vicinity, determined to warn them; but the difficulty was how this was to be done and who would be bold enough to undertake it, as the Indians were between the two forts.
for the perilous expedition was called for, Matthew Gray, who but an
before had made such a narrow escape, boldly offered his services and,
getting the fastest horse and two rifles, started out through the
unbroken forest. Moving cautiously along the trail, he came near Ivy
about two miles from the fort, when he saw signs which satisfied him
the Indians had halted at the spring. There was no way to flank them,
he must make a
He arrived at the settlement in safety and, thus, in all probability saved the lives of all the settlers. The Indians, however, captured two women on the way - Polly Alley at Osborn's Ford, as they went up the river, and Jane Whittaker near Castle's Woods.
Finding the fort at Castle's Woods fully prepared for their reception, the band had to abandon their murderous purpose and pass on with their captives, without permitting themselves to be seen. Reaching Guess' Station, they remained part of the night; finding it well prepared for defense, they continued their journey to the "Breaks," where the Russell and Pound forks of Big Sandy pass through the Cumberland Mountains.
traveled every day, resting at night, until they reached the Ohio at
mouth of Sandy. Crossing the river on a raft of logs with their
who suffered more than can be described or conceived on the long march,
they reached their destination at Sandusky. The two young women were
confined for some time after their arrival, though they were eventually
stripped and painted and allowed the liberty of the village. They were
closely watched for a month
night, they found themselves only about eight miles from the village;
finding a hollow log, they crept into it, with the determination of
concealed during the day. They had been in it but a few minutes before
Hargus and two or three Indian came along in pursuit and sat down upon
it, and the girls heard them make their plans for the next day's
Returning late in the afternoon, having lost the girls' trail, the
sat down upon the same log
Hargus, more furious than the Indians themselves, struck his tomahawk into the log to emphasize his threats and, finding it return a hollow sound, declared the girls might be in it, as they had been traced thus far. He sent one of the savages to the end of the log to see. The savage went and looked; but, seeing that a spider had stretched its web across the aperture, he made no further examination. This web, which probably had not been there an hour, saved them from recapture and it may be from a cruel death.
After the Indians left, the girls, having heard their plans, left the log and resumed their journey, taking a leading ridge which ran at right angles with the Ohio and led them to it not far fromm opposite the mouth of Sandy. They could hear the yells of the Indians in pursuit each day and night until the reached the river, when, from a high promontory, they had the satisfaction of seeing their pursuers give up the chase and turn back towards their village.
They had nothing to eat for three long days and night but a partially devoured squirrel from which they had frightened a hawk. On the night of the third day after the Indians had quit the pursuit, they ventured to the river, where they were fortunate enough the next day to see a flat-boat with white men in it descending the stream. The men took them aboard, set them across at the mouth of Sandy, and furnished them with a sufficiency of bread and dried venison to last them two weeks. Also, they gave each girl a blanket.
course up Sandy on the same trail they had gone down some months
but in one of the rapid and dangerous crossings of that stream they
all of their provisions, as well as blankets. This, though a great
did not discourage them. They pushed on with friends and home in view.
They found their way through Pound gap and reached Guess' Station about
the middle of September, having been on the journey about a month. Here
they found friends who gave them food and, after they had rested,
them to their homes.
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